I often hear, “if I could just get my pricing under control, I could be successful” or “if I could just get some more clients in the door, I could be successful” and it always makes me pause and think: What does it mean to achieve “success”?
What I believe is wrong approach:
Just use the default measure of success: go for the maximum amount of money I can make. Maybe I should start saving for that vacation because it seems like the thing to do. If no thought is given to what qualities define the “successful” life, there’s less chance of feeling like a failure if it doesn’t happen, right? We all know that in order to set a goal, it should be measurable and specific. Isn’t being “successful” really just a goal? So let’s get more specific.
Why it’s so important:
The problem is, without really considering what success means as a photographer and business owner, there’s also less chance of reaching it.
Remember, your time and effort should bring something home. But what is it that you want to go home with? That’s what you need to know. Make sure you are working toward something, not just working so you can worry more.
Is it steady income? House repairs? Feeling of self-worth? Vacations with your family?
I’ll note here that you’re not trying to find one formula for success that will last forever and ever. Definitions change over time (sometimes even several times in a year depending on your working style) because lives change over time. That’s normal. But start somewhere!
What I want you to do:
Take some time to sit back with a glass of wine (or beverage of choice – if you have a spare butter rum chai handy, send it my way) and meditate on the circumstances where you would feel comfortable and secure. I’ve heard tons of different answers from other photographers, including:
– 6 months of household expenses in savings
– A particular amount of money in the bank
– A retail location with some specific number of regular clients
– Ability to hire an additional photographer or photographers to limit my shooting time to the cream-of-the-crop clients and still make money
– A paid two-week vacation for my family over summer break (note: not wanting to claw your way to the very top is perfectly okay. If your goals tend toward smaller rewards, own it! Be real!)
– Shooting nothing but the newborns/seniors/whatever type of session is most rewarding
Normally, I have a strictly-enforced rule about not looking to other businesses for ideas about how to run your own.
After all, you have no idea if they’re profitable!
I discuss this in detail in my free e-book “Pricing for Profit”. However, I’m going to make a limited exception for those of you who are really having trouble getting started on this mind quest. If it helps, think about other photography businesses (perhaps even other kinds of businesses) that you know about…the ones you are envious of. Now I want you to think about what they have that you want. Going down that road in your mind might help you clarify what standard you are using for success. But again, remember that you’re planning for actual success, not just the appearance of success.
Please remember that you are not goal-setting just so you can fill in the steps toward getting that goal in microscopic detail!
(unless that’s how you roll…in that case, go for it!)
You’re giving yourself a visual that will help you through the struggles and slumps and low points – every business has some. It can also foster creativity. There’s more than one way to get where you want to go, so you get to flex some creative muscle in getting there!
Whether you are writing it down, making an audio message that you can play back to yourself later, or mediating on it to get a strong visual, OWN YOUR GOAL so someone else’s priorities don’t own you.
The bottom line: There are tons of disadvantages to owning your own business. Take advantage of one of the huge upsides – set your own destination and timeline! You will be more invested in your success, not just your survival.